New York Ironweed

New York Ironweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Hiking the trails as we do in the northeastern United States, our eyes constantly search for butterflies. We may all react as I do when approaching this wildflowering plant. I have come to generally disregard Vernonia noveboracensis. Why? Aren’t its blooms gorgeous? Yes, they are striking. Isn’t New York Ironweed one of the last of the late flowering wildflowers, joined by asters and goldenrods? Yes, again.

With dozens and dozens of flowers clustered on these erect stems, they receive only infrequent visits from butterflies. A puzzlement. Open from August to as late as October, they are not the first stop destination for our winged beauties. O. E. Jennings (1953) may offer us a clue, Grazing farm animals, even sheep, avoid this plant, probably because of its bitter foliage. This observation was made for the closely related Tall Ironweed, but perhaps it describes New York Ironweed also. Then who does nectar regularly at these striking blooms?

This year’s woefully limited Monarch population certainly did not consume much of their nectar secretion. Does that influence next year’s New York Ironweed presence?

A pretty plant, with a mysteriously low profile.